Gordon Beckham hasnt felt terrible or lost at the platethis season. He just feels frustrated.The White Sox second baseman will carry a .231 battingaverage into Fridays series opener against the Los Angeles Angels. But Beckham-- who hit .188 with four RBIs in July -- thinks his average should besignificantly better.Ive felt like Im up there battling, doing the rightthing, putting the ball in play and putting the ball in play hard sometimes,Beckham said. I dont feel like Ive gotten what I deserved, but thatsbaseball. Tough luck.The numbers suggest Beckham has in fact suffered some badluck this season. Beckham is hitting .254 on balls in play this season -- afigure that counts only at-bats that dont result in strikeouts and home runs.His career average has dropped to .280 on balls in play. But Beckham's BABIP has been .297, .290 and .276 in three previousseasons. One area where Beckham has improved significantly -- andpart of the reason for his frustration -- is his strikeout rate. Last season,Beckham struck out once every 4.49 at-bats. This season, hes only striking outonce every 6.40 at-bats.This year more than any year Ive felt like Ive hit theball well and not had (results), Beckham said. Last year was a bad year. Ididnt feel comfortable at the plate. It was almost like whatever hit I got Iwas thankful to get. This year I do feel comfortable and Im doing a lot ofthings right and thats the part where you want to pull your hair out becauseyou expect to have better results.His offensive numbers havent affected his defensive ones. Beckham has combined with shortstop Alexei Ramirez to givethe White Sox one of the best double play combinations in the American League. He could have easily shut down, but he hasnt, hittingcoach Jeff Manto said. Some guys if theyre not hitting, theyre not playingdefense. But he separates the game extremely well. Every day hes working. Imnot going to tell you hes not frustrated, but he doesnt wear it on the field.Beckham insists the way he deals with frustration hasnt improvedwith experience. The fourth-year starter said it might actually make it harderfor him to try and fight through the difficulty. But he also said he hasnt yetgiven up on the season and attaining his goals.It has not become easier, Beckham said. Ive kind ofleaned pretty heavy on my faith this year, that Im continuing to be humbled.For whatever reason it hasnt really gone my way when it could have. You keepon battling. We have two months left and thats a lot of time, 50, 55 gameswhere I know Im capable of putting up every number I thought I was going toput up this year. I believe I can get there.
GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.
“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.
“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”
Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.
“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."
This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.
“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."
How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.
“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”
Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.
“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."
Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.
“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”
A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.
Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.
It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.
“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”
In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.
Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?
Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: